Mother Earth News Blogs > Homesteading and Livestock

Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Modern Homesteading - Reality Check

Tree fall on fenceTime for me to come clean.

I love the rural life, really I do, but there are some days when the comfort of a city condo would be a welcome distraction.  And honestly?  A relief.

Like the days when it's sub-zero and I forgot to pick up winter work gloves to do the outside chores (for the 7th day in a row) and my fingers freeze.

Or those mornings the chickens are screaming way down the hill for the umpteenth time and I have to get up from my work again (you know, the gig that pays the bills) to make sure they're not being carried off by a coyote or a hawk. 

Or the chicken house roof is leaking and now it's reeking to high heaven because the deep bedding is wet, meaning I need to spend another hour cleaning it out.

Or a tree has crashed onto the driveway, rendering us trapped.

Or the mouse has once again gnawed on my $5 a pound organic avocados, turning them to compost, then found the time (the dear heart) to chew the pants off a $75 Waldorf doll I bought as a gift for a little one in our circle of friends.

Or the cold rain is running down my neck as I'm getting the firewood for the night because the rain gutter guy hasn't shown up to install the new gutters on the shed.

Or, and here's the best one - the kindling somehow got wet (see missing gutters above) and the fire I'm trying to light to stave off hypothermia in the house simply WILL NOT LIGHT!!

All this while I'm trying to run a technology business with high profile international clients who need stuff done.  You know, like 'NOW'.  Via satellite internet, for which there is rarely a speed called 'fast' (at least with the service I'm currently using - the only one available here) and it disappears whenever it snows, or is foggy, or a leaf grows in the wrong place...

I can even imagine what it would be like if we had more animals...

Frustrating?  Absolutely.  Maddening?  Sometimes.  Enough to really make me reconsider my dream?  Not on your life.

I have to admit, when I decided to go down this modern homesteading road, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Sure I'd read a lot of books and met with a lot of experts, but honestly, it's like having children.  Nothing anyone says ahead of time can prepare you for the ways in which your life is about to change.  Even all that super negative stuff from your bitter 40-something friend who has children but really probably shouldn't - zilch effect.  And then you sit there, shell-shocked, wondering why no one told you what it was really like.

Except they did - but you weren't listening.  You had a dream, and gol' darnit, you were going to do it, regardless of what your friends and family thought.

So you packed yourself up from your city life and moved to the sticks.

Then spent the next three years battling a mouse (or a squirrel) for dominion over your digs.  Sure, you could have had it 'taken care of', like some have suggested, but where's the adventure in that?

And then you wake up one morning, rain pattering on the roof of the loft, fire crackling in the woodstove, and winter wrens chirping and flitting outside the window - and you just know you are home.  The satellite internet is working like lightning (for once), and the chickens have offered up breakfast in the form of the most delicious organic range eggs you've ever tasted.  Almost sweet, if you can imagine such a thing. 

And you are reminded that life is, indeed, good.  Very good.  And that most of the frustrations result from choices we have made.

So, as we play out our third year of living in our little piece of paradise, I've come to understand that even with all the interruptions and frustrations, I'm really happy.  For all the quirks of rural living (and there are many), we really do have an incredible, amazing, brilliant life here. 

So, when the internet connection craps out again because it's foggy or something, I'll take a deep breath, slather on some Stress Away, and settle into another day of living my dream.

If you live in the country and are already doing this homesteading thing, do you have any wisdom to share with those contemplating the move?  Please share in the comments below!  

victoria gazeley
1/28/2012 8:37:23 PM

John, that is perhaps the most brilliant country living advice I've read so far. Thanks so much for taking the time to share it - hopefully it helps others considering the move. I know many locals have these same feelings about 'newcomers'...

john sealander
11/18/2011 9:47:54 AM

Well, since you asked.... I have been 'living the dream' for several years now and I think a couple of things that are rarely mentioned are important to keep in mind....1) some things will change and some things will never change-no matter where you go to live. If you have a bad attitude where you live and want to 'move to the wilderness' to escape the problems, is the problem where you live or is it you? Be careful what you bring with you, including what you think you're escaping from, what you're fleeing to and the delusions and fantasies you may bring with you. 2) No matter where you go on the North American continent there will be people already there when you arrive. They already have a culture and community and don't need your help to 'fix' or change it. They like it the way it is and that's why they are already there. If your willing to be friendly, humble and respectful, appreciative of free offers of aid or friendship you'll do fine. If you feel the need to impose what might be viewed as 'alien concepts', best to keep your mouth closed...for a quite a while. Respect is earned and trust builds like ice on pond...slowly. The aren't interested in how you did it in Miami, New York, Chicago or LA...they have probably been there too and didn't like it. That's why they are where they are at...just like you! 3) Attend fewer political events and attend church a little more often. Many rural communities are built around church life-not political action committees. The only thing that will probably raise the heat in a room fast is local community politics- it would be VERY wise to kept you one mouth tightly closed and both ears open wide - for a few years at the very least. 4) NOBODY grows or produces everything they need; at least not since the time of the Neanderthals (and we know where that got'm-extinct) but most everyone grows or produces some things then can trade, barter or sell. 5) Gift you excess. When I first moved to the Southern Appalachian Mts. I would occasionally find 'stuff' left on my front porch by the door. No note, just stuff. Canned goods or garden produce mostly. I once figured out one lady who had done that and asked her why? She got this surprised looked on her face and then looked at me like I was the dumbest creature on the planet (it's true, I am) and she said, " Well, I had extra.". THAT'S why I live back in the woods. Yes, I gift the excess I receive. So if you go forward with respect to your neighbors, are humble and appreciate the friendship, knowledge and information they share and participate as a member of the place; if you always trade on a square deal and put your labor and sweat into joint or community projects, if you're always willing to lend a hand if you can (without being asked, simple because you see it needs doing), you will be accepted and even loved. If you don't....well it doesn't matter where you live does it? It will never work for you, no matter where you live. Interestingly, if you adopt these attitudes now, before you leave Miami, New York, Chicago or LA ( you know-just for practice?) you might be amazed at the changes you discover in the community you are already in. Wonderful things are happening around the country in all kinds of communities-like Newark, NJ and in Cleveland and cities and towns all over the nation. Urban gardening and farming, energy experiments, fish farms in old factories and climbing gardens in half empty shopping malls....using wasted space and resources (human and material) in new, creative and productive ways. Why not simply 'grow where your planted'? With the attitudes listed above it really doesn't matter what the terrain or USDA frost Zone is, you will be happier and more fulfilled. As an ancient zen master once said,"Why wander in other dusty countries and thus forsake your own seat?". There is so much to do, so many good things to do, grab ahold and do it...don't wait to move somewhere else to do it. Do If and when that dream farm becomes available, well you'll be ready, won't you.